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What Is Sanctifying Grace?

What Is Sanctifying Grace?

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Published by: Grace Church Modesto on Oct 26, 2009
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02/01/2013

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\u201cWhat Is Sanctifying Grace?\u201d
(Ezekiel 36:26-27)
I. Introduction.
A. Orientation.

1. Last Lord\u2019s Day evening, we considered the life of Jonathan Edwards.
a. How the Lord gifted him with an amazingly acute intellect.
b. How He also blessed him with a sanctified heart and mind.
c. How He prepared Edwards through his upbringing in a strong Christian

household and at Yale for the work He called him to do.

d. And how he faithfully labored in the Gospel ministry for eight months in
New York, tutored for 2 years at Yale, labored for more than twenty-three
years in the ministry at Northampton, then about eight years at Stockbridge
and finally 2 months as president of Princeton before his death.

2. We also considered how the times in which he lived influenced his thinking:
particularly the two awakenings that he lived and ministered through.
a. His first real experience with revival took place in 1734-1735 with the \u2018first\u2019

awakening under his ministry.
b. And by God\u2019s grace, he saw a second \u2013 the \u201cGreat Awakening\u201d \u2013 which
lasted from 1740-1743.

c. The Lord used each of these experiences to shape the mind that would
biblically analyze and write regarding the nature of saving and sanctifying
grace.

B. Preview.

1. This evening, we\u2019re going to begin breaking ground on Edwards\u2019 view of grace.
But first, there are a few things we need to understand about it.
a. The word \u201cgrace\u201d can mean several things in Scripture:

(i) In general, it refers to God\u2019s unmerited favor, giving us things we clearly don\u2019t deserve, and often in a context where we deserve just the opposite. (a) It can refer to God\u2019s common goodness to all men, giving them food,

clothing, shelter, the blessings of family, a long life.
(b) It can refer to God\u2019s saving goodness to His elect, giving them heaven
when they deserve hell.

(ii) It can also refer more specifically to the spiritual blessings He gives.
(a) When He quickens us to life, He is said to give us saving grace.
(b) And when He strengthens us spiritually after we have been converted,

He is said to give us sanctifying grace.
b. It\u2019s this sanctifying grace that we\u2019ll want to explore more fully in this study,
through the eyes of Jonathan Edwards.
2
(i) First, with a study of the nature of sanctifying grace from his Treatise on
Grace.

(ii) Then by considering his Religious Affections, where he will tell us more specifically about the things that show us that saving and sanctifying grace is present in our lives.

(iii) As we look at Edwards\u2019 thought on the subject, we\u2019ll see not only how he benefited from the authors we\u2019ve already surveyed, but also how goes far beyond them in his understanding and explanation of these things.

2. But tonight, before we turn to Edwards, we\u2019ll consider a few definitions of
sanctifying grace in the history of the church \u2013 some more recent and some from
the past, to show how difficult it has been to define what it really is.

II. Sermon.
A. The problem in understanding sanctifying grace.

1. Saving and sanctifying grace can be difficult to understand.
a. It\u2019s a concept like time that we often talk about but don\u2019t fully comprehend.
b. In Roman Catholic circles, it\u2019s understood as a substance, contained in the

sacraments, that is consumed with them and enters the soul.
(i) In their system, to get to heaven directly \u2013 which is true only of the saints
\u2013 your soul must be full when you die, which means you have become
personally sanctified.
(ii) But any amount of it is enough to get you to purgatory, which means you
will eventually enter heaven.
(iii) We call this the doctrine of justification by infused grace \u2013 grace which
is infused or poured into your soul through the sacraments.
c. Protestants disagree that we are saved by infused grace.

(i) The Bible does not teach that we must become filled with grace \u2013 or
become personally perfect \u2013 before we are declared just by God and given
entrance to heaven.

(ii) It teaches that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us by faith, so
that even though we are not perfect, we are justified by the perfect
righteousness of Christ.

d. We do, however, agree that we are sanctified through infused grace.
(i) We are justified through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
(ii) But we are sanctified through the infused grace He gives.

2. But what is sanctifying grace?
a. That was a question I asked my professors in seminary.
(i) They agreed that it was something God poured into our souls through the

means of grace, but they were unclear as to exactly what it is.
(ii) One thought it was divine help of some sort.
(iii) Another that it was divine power, communicated by the Holy Spirit to

those who have faith that promotes sanctification.
3

b. They all agreed it was God\u2019s help, that it came from the Spirit of God, and
that it promoted spiritual growth, but none had an adequate explanation of
what it was.
(i) This also appears to be a common weakness of understanding among

theologians.
(ii) Many either fail to ask the question of precisely what it is, or having
asked it, fail to provide much clarity.

(iii) This is surprising considering that an adequate understanding of this doctrine provides a vital key in our understanding of sanctification as a whole, without which we will not see the Lord (Heb.12:14).

B. Let\u2019s consider some of these views of sanctifying grace.
1. First, that of Dr. Philip Edgecumbe Hughes.
a. He begins where most do \u2013 that grace is \u201cundeserved blessing freely
bestowed on man by God.\u201d1

b. After noting that there is both a common and special grace, he defines special
grace in this way: \u201cSpecial grace is the grace by which God redeems,
sanctifies, and glorifies his people. . . . God\u2019s regenerating grace is dynamic.
It not only saves but also transforms and revitalizes those whose lives were
previously broken and meaningless. . . . All is thus ascribed to the grace of
God, not merely the Christian\u2019s conversion but also the whole course of his
ministry and pilgrimage\u201d (480). Rather than telling us what grace is, he
actually tells us what it does.

c. He tells us several other things about grace that are absolutely true:

(i) First, God doesn\u2019t give it to everyone, but only to His elect: \u201cUnlike
common grace, which is universally given, special grace is bestowed only
on those whom God elects to eternal life through faith in his Son, our
Savior Jesus Christ\u201d (Ibid.).

(ii) Second, that God must first bestow it before the elect can respond to the
outward call of the Gospel.
(iii) Third, when He does give it, it will effect faith in the recipient and bring

them safely to heaven (481).
(iv) Fourth, that it is irresistible and will accomplish what God wills.
(v) And finally, that it is sufficient to save believers now and forever, since

infinite power stands behind it (481-482).
d. The one thing he doesn\u2019t tell us in his article on grace is what it is \u2013 the one
thing that will help us most to understand it.
2. Second, let\u2019s consider R. L. Dabney, a southern Presbyterian theologian of the
19th Century.
1Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, \u201cGrace,\u201d Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), p. 479.

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